There certainly are a lot of modern-day bars with interesting pasts that refused to give into Prohibition. What you may not realize is that there are a lot of modern-day bars that have more recently popped up and keep the spirit of secrecy alive, even if they don’t share the same history as the bars that used to operate as speakeasies. Here are the fourteen of the best secret Chicago bars and how to get into them.
Watershed Bar is the downstairs/secret portion of River North’s Pops for Champagne. While the upstairs champagne lounge “front” caters to people with very specific tastes, the downstairs Watershed Bar features many Chicago craft beer favorites. There’s something to suit any kind of drinker within these hidden walls.
Why does Matilda always make me think of Goose Island’s fancy but hoppy beer? It’s probably because they have a pretty extensive list of Chicago’s best beer on draft and in bottles. But I digress: Baby Atlas is Matilda’s secret downstairs bar.
Awhile back, we listed out the best Chicago craft cocktail bars, and The Aviary is one place mentioned that tops any list of the sort. But did you know that this go-to spot also has its own secret bar? That’s right—The Aviary’s secret bar is called The Office. In order to get in, you’ll need to team up with a group of friends and book a private party of 16.
If you tell your mom you’re heading out to The Library, she’ll be proud of you, but for all the wrong reasons. Don’t feel bad about the pride you’ll feel when you get into this secret Chicago bar. Gilt Bar is it’s front, which is a Chicago favorite on it’s own. The Library is almost impossible to find without a hostess leading you through the secret unmarked door downstairs by the bathrooms. Once you enter, there are plenty of cozy spots to relax with company surrounded by what else? Shelves upon shelves of books.
Far different from anything on this list, The Booze Box is a secret bar that’s a part of Sushi Dokku. It’s got a great Japanese-inspired interior, complete with snacks and vinyl-spinning. You can even rent The Booze Box out for a private event!
Almost everyone in Chicago has already found Three Dots and a Dash, but for tourists and the uninitiated, it can seem like a secret bar because it’s somewhat hidden. To find Three Dots and a Dash, enter the alley next to Firecakes Donuts. You’ll see a line and know you’re there!
Bordel is the quintessential secret bar, because it would be impossible to know it’s even there without doing some research first. Bordel is on the second floor of a Spanish tapas restaurant in Wicker Park, Black Bull. Besides stiff craft cocktails, you can enjoy burlesque performances every so often. Bordel is a great place to go for Prohibition Day celebrations.
The Pub at the University of Chicago is not only a secret bar, but an exclusive one. Located in the basement of the Ida Noyes Hall, you can only get in if you’re a student, faculty member, or a guest of a student or faculty member. I suppose you could follow someone in—just make sure to get their consent!
It’s not hard to see how secret bars at Chicago colleges could be appealing, which is why it’s no surprise that you can find another secret bar at Loyola University’s Damen Student Center.
Another surprising secret bar along the same lines as the aforementioned college secret bars is The Fifth Province, which is a hidden drinking hole in the Irish American Heritage Center (in the south wing).
Another of Chicago’s best craft cocktail bars (if not the best) is The Violet Hour. You can usually find it by spotting the line out the door on weekends, but another way to get to The Violet Hour is to first grab some tacos at Big Star, cross the street, then feel around for the door!
Zebra Lounge isn’t so much secret as unexpected or unknown. It’s located in Canterbury Court, and getting to it is only possible by passing through this complex. Give your song requests to their staff pianist!
A transition space between that awkward moment at the end of a show and time to finally go home, Door No. 3 is a no-frills “speakeasy” in the basement of Double Door. You’ll find regular comedy acts, DJ sets and acoustic shows on the regular playing here.
Did you know The James hotel has it’s own speakeasy? It’s called Jimmy, and it’s a discreet bar hidden behind dangling silver beads. Ask the doorman outside to guide you to this unmarked bar and sip on a craft cocktail made with in-house juices and syrups.
There’s bound to be at least one (or perhaps even ten) of these best secret Chicago bars that you’ve yet to see for yourself. Next time a friend’s in town, impress them with your local knowledge of Chicago and enjoy a drink at a place that many don’t know even exists!
Have you been to any of the bars on this list of best secret Chicago bars? Tell us about your favorites in the comments below.
[Featured Image: Bordel Chicago on instagram]